Archive | January, 2016

Wedding Wednesday Finale, Straight Outta Wedding Central

27 Jan

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If it had been up to me, MrKef and I would have rented a rec center and had an awesome wedding and party without a single centerpiece or place setting. But it turns out that 99.9% of the world is more formal than I am, and I was flatly overruled pretty much every time I asked, “But do we really NEED that?” Luckily, I have a mother who is the reigning queen of Pinterest’s Budget Weddings for Stubborn and Cheap Daughters scene, and she came to the rescue in a big way.

For about a year, MamaKef referred to her dining room as “Wedding Central” (and sometimes even answered the phone, “Wedding Central, how can I help you?” which gave me particular joy). Let’s review some of her amazing work!

My favorite detail: my bouquet. When I mentioned I really didn’t care to carry a bouquet, MamaKef actually recoiled in horror. But she knows the way to my heart: sentimentality. She doctored up the silk flower arrangement that she carried at her wedding to make this beautiful bouquet that I was thrilled to carry down the aisle with me.

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And she also made sure my beloved Grandma Ann was represented, and included this handkerchief in the 2016 version of her bouquet:

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Welcome bags were a MUST-have for MamaKef and the out of town guests, so she did up these super cute little inserts and added them to a basket of black & white cookies, a map of DC, and water bottles

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She also designed and printed the entirety of our ceremony’s program:

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All those amazing photos taken in foam board frames? 100% the work of the parentals, who spent a weekend perfecting these awesome props.

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Plus she commissioned this amazing, surprise step-and-repeat for us, which KMBGSKef tells me was quite a feat of engineering to assemble…

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But the fun didn’t stop there! She fashioned some beautiful decorations for cocktail hour:

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Which included pictures of both our families, because MamaKef is the official family historian:0674

And even made my ultimate cheap-as-anything-bride move look super cute with the help of ChampagneOnlyKef’s perfect penmanship:

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MrKef is a proud alumnus of Posse, and they have a tradition of “Warm and Fuzzies” that MrKef wanted to try and recreate for our guest book. So, we made these little note papers on VistaPrint and MamaKef found a creative way to display them

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Our seating chart was also a MamaKef original (with a little help from KMBGSKef’s fine hand)–this was a repurposed foam board of my grandmother’s with little tags designed by (who else!) MamaKef:

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… and that was all before you entered the reception room! As mentioned above, centerpieces were very low on my priority list, but MamaKef came to the rescue.

 

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The pictures don’t actually do them justice–the venue gave us the cylinders and mirrors (for free!) and MamaKef came up with this brilliant glitter-sticks-fake-tea-light arrangement. They gave off this beautiful sparkling low light that looked so pretty as the sun set over the Potomac.

… but low-cost don’t mean low-stress… this was the scene until about 1130am the day of the wedding (not pictured but should be: KMBGSKef, ChampagneOnlyKef, CafeKef, BabyKef and TresParisienneKef as WeddingCentralMinions).

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One of my other favorite details: the table numbers! We decided to do pictures of each of us at ages that corresponded to the table number. MamaKef and HomeBrewKef tag-teamed to make these amazing placards:

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Finally, MamaKef bequeathed us what was 100% the most appreciated detail of the wedding– flipflops! 0808

And that, good people, is the work of the world’s Best Mom, with only minimal input from the world’s Worst Bride.0693

And now, I leave with with just a few moments from the Kef Wedding After Dark:

THE BIGGEST THANK YOU TO EVERYONE AT THE KEY BRIDGE MARRIOTT, who were awesome. Especially our Captain, Cristina– obrigada!

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So many favorites in one spot:

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MrKef’s mom served beignets during the after party, village style:IMG_4422

while DoJobKef entertained my side of the family with her discovery that my dad’s best friend bears an uncanny resemblance to her OB:

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There is a video of my parents, my dad’s best friend, and KMBGSKef belting out some Irish Drinking Songs… but I will spare you that and give you a blurry picture, instead:FullSizeRender (1)

At about 2:00 am, we piled into two huge Ubers and headed–where else?–to Korean BBQ:

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…and THAT, my friends, is how I woke up looking like this:

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How better for the anti bride to end this seemingly-endless blog series?

Everything I Don’t Eat on a Single, Delicious Plate

25 Jan

Congrats to everyone for making it through Snowzilla 2016– MrKef and I had a lovely time weathering the storm. We both caught up on some work, then started Making a Murderer (MrKef: “the whole state of Wisconsin can go to hell.”) and I wept through another of the final episodes of Downton. After all those emotions, I had to get into the kitchen and cook off some steam.

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Obviously Home Chef’s picture, not mine.

WokeUpLikeDisKef and SoulFoodChefKef graciously gifted us with a month of Home Chef meals, which came in superhandy in avoiding all the Snowzilla grocery-store madness. Home Chef is a home-delivery meal service similar to HelloFresh and Blue Apron. I found the Home Chef meals WAY simpler and faster than HelloFresh and also liked the fact that we could choose from about a dozen meals each week (vs 5 with HelloFresh). A last selling point for Home Chef: way less packaging!  Enough of the unpaid advertisement (Home Chef–call me!), let’s get to the recipe. MrKef gave this one his certified stamp of approval by requesting I make it again–soon.

Seared Chicken with Parmesan Lemon Orzo

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, halved and zested
  • 4 oz. grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 oz. kale, rinsed, stemmed, and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and stems discarded
  • 2 chicken breasts at room temperature
  • 5 oz orzo
  • 1 tsp chicken base (or 1 bouillon cube)
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1.5 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2.5 c hot water
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper


Assembly

1. Heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Sear chicken until browned, about 3-4 minutes. Flip chicken, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for another 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink and juice runs clear. Remove from pan and set aside. No need to clean out the pan yet.

2. Return heat to medium and cook onions for 4-5 minutes, or until they are soft and fragrant. Add orzo, increase the heat to medium-high, and stir to toast the orzo, about 2 minutes.

3. Add 1 cup hot water, garlic, and chicken base/cube. Stir constantly until creamy (about 3-4 minutes). Add another cup of water and stir continuously until absorbed and orzo is even creamier. Add HALF a cup of water and lemon zest and cook for 2 more minutes. Orzo should be still a bit firm. Reduce heat to low.

4. Add kale, butter, thyme, cheese, juice from half the lemon, and tomatoes to pan. Stir gently for 1-2 minutes to wilt the kale. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan to reheat. Serve immediately.

Some Recipes for Your Snow Day

21 Jan

If this were any other winter, the threat of a major snow storm would have sent this nurse into a forecast-checking frenzy. Buuuuut not this year! #outpatientlife

So, now the only question that remains is this one: what are your snowed-in cooking plans? Here are some of my favorite recipes for inclement weather:

Nutella Brioche Star

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GrainFree Greek Empanadas

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Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with a Maple Browned Butter Sauce

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Honey Yeast Rolls with Maple Butter

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If none of those pictures were enough to get you to the grocery store, here are some favorite dishes whose photos don’t quite live up to how awesome the recipes are:

(Almost The Last) Wedding Wednesday: Reception Kings and Prancing Dads

20 Jan

Today we’re gonna finish up the party pics I couldn’t get posted last week, next week it’s all about the amazing work MamaKef put into this life event, and then its honeymoon in Croatia time. Sharing all these fun wedding moments has been great, but I’m ready to move on. (Part I ; Part II ; Part III ; Part IV)

First things first, I have to crown a King of the Reception. I’d like to think everyone had a great time at our little fiesta, but there was one guest who stood out in a sea of really fun people as the person having the MOST fun: RussianBearKef himself! There was not one single scene the photographer caught without him in, having a blast. A smattering of the many snapshots of one of my dearest friends getting down with pretty much every woman I know:

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Impossibly, we have known each other for TEN years– so because I can, I think we need a before-and-after comparison:

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I rather think we’re getting better with age (and less Russian Bear!).

It was an extremely tough decision. The runner up goes to SummitKef, for cheering us on SO wholeheartedly as we fed each other beignets and baklava. The whole photo series is priceless, but here’s just one to wet your whistle:

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Back to the party:  the FamiliaKef really knows how it’s done:1503

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FINALLY, JetSet learns how to Wobble.

While my family was dancing, MrKef and co were up to some very-usual antics

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#posselove #brandeis

Naturally, FlailKef, SpeakToSomeoneAboutThatKef and I were picking some apples and putting them in our pocket:

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It was just a room full of dancing fools!

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The most beautiful couple on the planet, clearly.

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I think this is me “dancing” to Makossa

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Countless cool points were won and lost that night.

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Partying like we should have in 1999.

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Things reached a fever pitch when MamaKef’s cocktail hour props made their way to the dancefloor:

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Not in a frame, but they’re two of my most beloved, so I’m going Blogzilla and throwing it in there, anyway.

In case there was ANY wonder whether this whole night had been worth it, a miracle happened. Our last song of the night was “New York, NY.” Everyone was swaying in a circle, minding their own business and belting it out along with the original Bl’italian when…

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… SUDDENLY MRKEF’S DAD AND MY DAD ENTERED THE CENTER OF THE CIRLCE HOLDING HANDS AND PRANCING:

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It cannot be understated how happy this made me– my father does NOT dance, does not like attention, and does not touch other humans. My reaction was pretty much the same as KPopKef’s, captured wonderfully in the background to the right.

Once we got over the shock, everyone piled through the dads to form a bridge.

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1589 I honestly think this is the happiest moment of my whole life. I bemoaned the process of putting together a wedding for a price below the Federal Poverty Line for an entire year, but  I would happily pay twice the cost of the wedding just for this amazing memory!

Beautiful MakeUp and Emergency Hair Touchups: Colleen the Stylist
Amazing photography provided by: RMN Photography
Venue and gracious coordinators of logistics: Key Bridge Marriott
White dress the bride could live with: BHLDN
Alterations that kept the bride IN said dress: G2G Couture
Perfect party music played by: DJ StereoFaith

Wedding Wednesday: Syrtaki, Stanky Spanx, and Suspenders

13 Jan

Okay so today there’s good news and bad news: the bad news is that I had some technical difficulties this morning uploading all the party pics I wanted to use, so I may have to draw the reception out into two posts–sorry y’all. I tried to be a really low-key bride, so what I spared you in Bridezilla moments will be made up for in Blogzilla posts… okay? Great. The good news is that the upload failed pretty much right at the moment I was trying to teach JetSet how to Wobble, so he is spared one more week of embarassment.

So, after we rehearsed, said “I Do,” and MrKef got a major roasting, it was finally time to start the party. Clearly, there’s only one way to do it: Zorba (syrtaki if we’re being technical, but just go with it)! 1081

People tried–they really did–but eventually it devolved into a circle of clapping while the Greeks took care of the speedy bits.

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And then it was all party, party, party!

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Unfortunately, there is now photographic evidence of my doing the most STANDARD white girl dance post-college– one point in the “ChefKef-is-secretly-an-UGGs-wearing- PSL-sipping-basic-babe” column:

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Eventually, an epic dance-off between WokeUpLikeDisKef, RumNRedBullKef, and BabyKef broke out, which was amazing beyond measure.1173

No need to drop the mic– BabyKef threw down with her trademarked “Stanky Spanx” dance:

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Of course, MrKef and I had to then show off some of our signature moves, like Playing Dice:

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and “Ay! Ay! Ay! Ay!”

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and, my personal favorite, the Ashanti/JaRule Thug Love:

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Somehow, we forget to put Ma$e on the “Must Play” list, so MrKef had to do without his DiddyBop on his big night. Shame.

While all this was going down, there were beignets and baklava to be had!

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The beignets came from a random Cameroonian lady who turned out to be a total drama queen. The baklava came from the most amazing woman alive, Kat at Baklava Couture. Further proof that Our Greekness is Your Weakness? I think so.

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HomeBrewKef was surprised to find himself 100% on-trend at this shindig

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And that, sadly, is where my upload ends– more next time!

Beautiful MakeUp and Emergency Hair Touchups: Colleen the Stylist
Amazing photography provided by: RMN Photography
Venue and gracious coordinators of logistics: Key Bridge Marriott
White dress the bride could live with: BHLDN
Perfect party music played by: DJ StereoFaith

Books I’ve Read This Year

11 Jan

Since last week had a million food posts, I thought I’d start this week off with a new feature that may or may not be recurring: books I’ve read this year. In an effort to spend less time mindlessly scrolling through my phone, I downloaded the Kindle App so I could somewhat-more-mindfully scroll through my phone. The result is that I’ve already read two books this year, which I will definitely file in the “W” category. I will take this moment to remind you all that I was an English major, so if you find my thoughts on these books at all navel-gazing, well… they probably are.

The Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

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I had to keep my phone in the backseat to stop myself from reading this at stoplights–I loved it that much. Pretty much every reviewer of this book has written something to the tune of “the beauty is in its scarcity,” and man is that true. This slim little novel (192 pages) follows a married couple in Brooklyn plagued by bedbugs and the humdrum details of falling and staying in love. The real feat of this novel is the deftness with which Offill managers her readers: just when you are a bit tired of the disorienting insertion of random quotes and tidbits, she illuminates a new wrinkle in the story with searing honesty and an uncanny ability to describe exactly the narrator’s emotion and experience.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

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Oh, how much I wanted to love this book. Wolitzer weaves the tale of five teenagers who meet at a summer-long arts camp, three of them impossibly talented and privileged, one of them privileged but not talented, and the last (and main character) neither talented nor privileged. The Interestings is impressive in its breadth, and follows this group through a series of adult events that happen to them during adolescence as well as the adolescent interactions that plague them throughout adulthood. Wolitzer is a knowing storyteller and paces the long book (560 pages!) with impressive skill. The central tension of the novel is between the main character, untalented and unprivileged Jules, and her much-more-talented and increasingly-privileged dear friends, Ethan and Ash (names even I found too wrought with overprivilegedness to avoid cringing at throughout my reading). The torture Jules feels at being so ordinary in a world filled with extraordinary makes up the meat of the book, and my main criticism is that this anxiety never feels anything than utterly whiny– Wolitzer makes Jules a lovably flawed character (finally! a feminine anti-hero a la Don Draper) but somehow can’t quite pull her off, which disappointed me. In the end, I was glad to finish this book–but not sad to see its characters go.

‘That Boy Good’ Cardamom Cream Cake

8 Jan

Whew lawdy, it has been a WEEK here in Kefville-  a post every day this week! (Monday: The Extravaganza Recap; Tuesday: Fried Eggplant with Chickpeas and Mint Chutney; Wednesday: Iranian Jeweled Rice; Thursday: Sparkling Pomegranate Punch)

But wait- there’s more! Today we’re talking about this Cardamom Cream Cake also published by the NYT in their Best-of-2015 rundown. This cake got rave reviews, which I at first thought were from people just being nice… but then when the second (!) two-layer cake was decimated, I decided this pretty little thing must be the real deal.

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This recipe requires three components + the cake, so it’s neither a one-bowl job nor particularly quick. The frosting comes out thick and beige, so you should surely have some plan for beautifying it (might I suggest edible glitter?). Next time around, I may get really wild and an some pistachio to the ricotta cream for some added color… but that’s a story for another day.

Before we get to the recipe–can we just all agree that this woman next to MrKef is a total MILF? Actually, we might as well go one step further and introduce PILFKef, DO (she is a hotly-sought-after Pediatrician, after all).

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Finally, I must send my most heart-felt thanks to the creators of Coming to America for 1) entertaining our guests while I made this 10,000-hour dinner and 2) providing the highest-compliment-namesake for this creation (if you don’t know about ‘that boy good,’ click here and then, for eff’s sake, go watch the movie!)

‘That Boy Good’ Cardamom Cream Cake

Ingredients

FOR THE RICOTTA FILLING:

  • 1.5 lbs fresh whole-milk ricotta (this was about 24 oz)
  • ½ c heavy cream
  • ¾ c confectioners’ sugar 
  • 1 tsp rose water (I used orange blossom water because that’s what I had, you could also use a flavored extract of your choice or brandy–same goes for all the other rose water additions below)

FOR THE MILK SYRUP:

  • 2 c whole milk
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons rose water, or to taste

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 12 TBS (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (+more for greasing pan)
  • 3 c cake flour + more for flouring pan
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 c whole milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp rose water
  • 1.5 c granulated sugar
  • 1 TBS plus 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt

FOR THE MASCARPONE FROSTING:

  • 12 TBS (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp rose water, or to taste
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 c COLD mascarpone
  • ¼ c COLD Greek yogurt (just buy the damn full fat FAGE)
  • pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • Candied rose petals, for garnish (optional) (Ed note: I don’t even know what this means, but if the NYT includes it, so do I.)

Assembly

1. Drain the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve placed in a large bowl for 1 to 2 hours until very thick. If you’ve bought very thick, very freshly made ricotta from a specialty shop (not the kind from the supermarket), you can skip this step.

2. Meanwhile, make the milk syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the milk and cardamom pods. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the milk until it reduces by half, 30 to 45 minutes. Stir in the sugar until it dissolves, then continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the texture of half and half, about 10 minutes longer. Let cool, strain the mixture to get rid of the cardamom and any coagulated milk, then stir in the rose water. (Syrup can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated.)

3. Make the cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease the parchment. Flour the entire pan and parchment, tapping out any excess.

4. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the egg whites, milk, vanilla and rose water.

5. Using an electric mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, cardamom and salt, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and about a third of the milk-egg white mixture. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed and beat for a minute or so until everything is very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

6. Add the remaining milk mixture in 3 batches, beating well between additions. Scrape down the sides.

7. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake until a tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center, 25 to 35 minutes. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes, then unmold and cool completely.

8. Make the ricotta filling: Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the ricotta, cream and confectioners’ sugar until quite smooth, about 30 seconds. Beat in rose water to taste. Beat on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. The mixture will thicken.

9. Make the mascarpone frosting: Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, confectioners’ sugar, rose water and cardamom until fluffy, about 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in mascarpone and yogurt until the mixture is just combined and looks smooth. Do not overbeat or the mixture may curdle.

10. When the cakes have cooled, use a long serrated knife to trim the tops of the cakes, so the tops are flat and even. Then cut each cake in half into 2 layers, to make a 4-layer cake. Brush cake layers on all sides with milk syrup. Place one cake round on a cake stand or serving platter, then top with one third of the ricotta filling, leaving a small border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and ricotta filling.

11. Frost top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Top with chopped pistachios and candied rose petals, if using; chill until ready to serve.

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